One of the most nonsensical claims by opponents of gay marriage is that it is a threat to “traditional marriage,” by which they mean what their intellectual hero, Carrie Prejean, the disgraced former Miss California USA, referred to as “opposite marriage.”
For people who aren’t tuned into the debate, the canard that gay marriage threatens heterosexual marriage sounds vaguely reasonable — like marriage is a zero-sum game and that as gay marriage increases so will the divorce rate among straight couples.
A recent report from Pew Research indicates that the opposite of that is true:
The national divorce rate is higher now than it was a century ago, but it has been declining for the past two decades. According to provisional data for most states from the Centers for Disease Control, there were 3.5 divorces per 1,000 people in 2008, compared with 4 per 1,000 people in 2000. (Marriage rates have also declined but the divorce rate also has declined if expressed as the number of divorces per 1,000 married couples.) [Emphasis added.]
The year 2000 is key here. Before 2000, anti-gay activists had been winning their war against gay marriage, including the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act by Congress in 1996. In 2000, however, the course of the war began to change, and the good guys started to win:
- 2000: Vermont invents the “civil union” which allows gay couples to enter into a separate but not equal version of marriage.
- 2004: In February, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome issues the first same-sex marriage licenses in the United States; in May, Massachusetts legalizes gay marriage.
- 2005: Connecticut legalizes civil unions (but implementation will be delayed until 2008); in March, a judge in California declares the state’s ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional; and in April, New York City recognizes gay marriages performed elsewhere.
- 2006: The New Jersey Supreme Court rules unanimously in favor of marriage equality, even though implementation stalls.
- 2007: In April, Washington state legalizes domestic partnerships; in May, New Hampshire and Oregon legalize civil unions, with legalization to come online in 2008.
- 2008: In May, Maryland legalizes domestic partnerships and a the California Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage (but marriage will only be legal until the passage of Proposition 8 that November)
The study showing a decline in divorce among straight couples only covers the period from 2000 to 2008, but since 2008, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. It was legalized in Maine for a brief while, until the professional homophobes at the National Organization for Marriage and others launched a campaign to overturn it.
But seriously, all of this is moot, of course. The haters aren’t really suggesting that the threat is zero-sum or that it will cause a rise in divorce in opposite marriages. What the homophobes are really saying is that homos are so sinful and, you know, “icky” that permitting them to marry befouls the institution of marriage by lowering the standard for entry to subhumans, thereby making it ugly and worthless to “normal” couples.
Dehumanizing the “other” is nothing new, of course. In India, at the bottom of the centuries-old caste system is a group of people who are born “unclean” somehow. In pre-World War II Europe, Jews were not human, they were vermin who needed to be exterminated. And during the Jim Crow era here in the United States, whites’ inexplicable aversion toward African Americans made it unthinkable for them to share a bathroom, laundry, water fountain or even a classroom with their black neighbors.
That’s what this is really about. All the moralizing and quoting Scriptures is just pretext.